Beat the Rush to Point Arena
by John Flinn
The strangest, coolest and most obscure national monument in California just got less strange and whole lot cooler, and it's about to become considerably less obscure. Even among outdoor enthusiasts, few had ever heard of the California Coastal National Monument. Made up of more than 20,000 offshore rocks, exposed reefs and sea stacks from Oregon to Mexico, its visitors consisted almost exclusively of humpback whales, sea lions, cormorants and the occasional tufted puffin.
But when President Obama expanded the monument recently by adding the onshore tract known as the Stornetta Lands, it opened 1,664 acres of dramatic, wind swept sea cliffs, wildflowers and tide pools to landlubbing humans.
It's bound to focus more attention on Point Arena, one of the more unjustly obscure hamlets along the Mendocino Coast. With some of the most dazzling - and easy - hiking n the North Coast, the coast's most imposing lighthouse and the opportunity to cavort with giraffes and zebras, it's well worth the tortuously gorgeous drive along Highway 1.
Where to stay
Mar Vista Cottages: 35101 S. Highway 1, Gualala; (877) 855-3522 or (707) 884-3522; www.marvistamendocino.com. Cottages, which include full kitchens, start at $185. Visitors get fresh eggs and free rein in the garden; other groceries are bring-your-own. Dogs 3 and older permitted; there's a one-time cleaning fee of $65. Has an EV2 electric car charging station.